"He [Salvador Allende] fought like a lion till his last breath." -- Fidel Castro, "Salvador Allende, un ejemplo que perdura," Granma, July 27, 2008
Well, not quite.
KGB agent/President Salvador Allende was impeached and deposed by the Chilean Congress for subverting the Constitution by conspiring to declare Chile a Marxist state. Since Allende refused to leave voluntarily, the Congress ordered the head of the army, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to remove him forcibly from the presidential palace. What nobody knew then was that Allende himself wanted no part of a heroic resistance. As the aerial bombardment began, Allende, in a state of panic, ran down the corridors of the palace shouting, "We must surrender!" A logical if not exactly bold-spirited conclusion. Despite being a Soviet agent for 35 years, Allende was also a typical Latin American politician whose first instinct when in trouble is to head to the nearest foreign embassy (in his case, Sweden's).
Allende in fact requested and was granted a truce on several occasions during the siege, but his Cuban bodyguards, under orders from Castro, would not allow their hostage to surrender. When the army finally stormed the palace and all further temporizing was futile, the chief of Allende's security detail, Patricio de la Guardia, shot Allende point blank in the head. Castro, who neither trusts nor is loyal to any man, did no want Allende captured because he feared that he might try to save himself by revealing all he knew about Cuban penetration in South America. In any case, Allende as a martyr was infinitely more useful to Fidel than as a loose cannon. It was Castro's decision, therefore, that he should never leave the palace alive.
The bodyguards, led by de la Guardia, did manage to escape through an underground tunnel that took them to the nearby Cuban embassy. They could have taken Allende with them, of course, but saving him would have entailed greater risks for them and Castro. Allende had complained four months before his death that he had been "instrumentalized by Castro." Indeed, the Cuban DGI had infiltrated all government ministries and seized effective control of the executive branch. It would not have been farfetched to suppose that Allende would have blamed Castro for his fall. Mussolini, even after Hitler rescued him, blamed him for his.
For many years Allende's daughter, who was not in the palace at the time of the siege, insisted that her father had been killed by the army. Castro also backed this fabrication, which was calculated to discredit Pinochet. When Pinochet stepped down after losing the last plebiscite, Allende's daughter changed her story. She is now of the opinion that her father committed suicide with a submachine gun, a gift from Castro which he kept in his office. Some day, perhaps, after Castro's own death, she may finally admit what other Chilean leftists have long known: that Castro did provide the instrument of Allende's death, except that it was not a gun but the man who pulled the trigger.
In his wikipedia-like "Reflection" in Granma (June 27) on the centenary of Allende's birth, Castro also now appears to credit suicide as the cause of his death, without, of course, acknowledging the provenance of the gun that the deposed Chilean president supposedly used to off himself. With his usual cynicism Castro compares Allende to Cuba's own 19th century revolutionary heroes who always saved the last bullet for themselves rather than surrender to the enemy.
Fidel Castro, the intellectual author of Allende's assassination, confined the actual assassin to prison 20 years ago, not for killing Allende, of course, but on charges of drug-trafficking. Patricio de la Guardia was actually lucky. Castro executed his twin brother Antonio ("Tony") de la Guardia and the supposed ringleader General Arnaldo Ochoa. It was rumored at the time that they had conspired against Castro, although it is hard to know whether against his power or his interests.
That Patricio was the only survivor of the 1989 purge is attributed to the fact that he deposited an account of Allende's death in a Panamanian bank vault to be opened in case of his death.
Castro concludes his homage to Salvador Allende by declining to say, out of characteristic humility, all that he was prepared to do to save him(self). Let others, he demurs, speak of his colossal loyalty and generosity.
Has any man in history eulogized the allies he has killed more than has Castro? Perhaps one day he'll eulogize Hugo Chávez, too, who is also "protected" by Castro's handpicked bodyguards.